There are certain actors who make every project they work on better just by being a part of them. For my money, Jeff Fahey is one of those actors!
He first appeared on the screen in one of the greatest Westerns ever made, Silverado, and later appeared in such popular films as The Lawnmower Man, White Hunter, Planet Terror, and Machete. But he is probably best known for his role as helicopter pilot Frank Lapidus on the beloved TV series Lost. He’ll soon return to the Western genre with his upcoming mini-series Texas Rising. But first, Fahey stars in the new horror/thriller Beneath, which is currently available on VOD and opens in theaters on August 1st.
Beneath follows a crew of coal miners who become trapped 600 feet below ground after a disastrous collapse. As the air grows more toxic and time runs out, they slowly descend into madness and begin to turn on one another. Faheyplays George Marsh, the leader of the miners whose daughter (Kelly Noonan) is trapped with them in the collapse. The film is directed by Ben Ketai (30 Days of Night: Dark Days), and is inspired by true events. In addition to Fahey andNoonan, the movie also features Joey Kern (Cabin Fever), Mark L. Young (We’re the Millers), Eric Etebari (The Lincoln Lawyer), and Brent Briscoe (The Dark Knight Rises).
I recently had the absolute pleasure of speaking with the great Jeff Fahey about Beneath, Texas Rising, and the legacy of Silverado. The veteran actor discussed his new movie, talking to real miners, why he doesn’t always research a role, director Ben Ketai, choosing projects, why Silverado is one of the great all-time Westerns, filming Texas Rising, and what he is most proud of in his career.
Here is what Jeff Fahey had to say about Beneath, Texas Rising, and the legacy of Silverado:
IAR: To begin with, did you do any research for your role in Beneath?
Jeff Fahey: Well Jami, it all happened so fast. I read the script and then I was on location on the set. But they had a miner who was a retired, an experienced miner that came in and talked to us for a couple hours the day before we started filming. I think some of the other actors had some time to do research on their own, but it was pretty much hand delivered to us with the sets, the director, his vision, the lighting, and the ensemble of the cast. Everybody got along great so we pretty much jumped in there and covered ourselves with dirt, and held our breath.
Did you learn anything from the retired miner you spoke with that helped to inform your performance?
Fahey: I wouldn’t want to say no, but I can’t say yes to any specifics other than it’s nice to have somebody who has lived that life, not necessarily the experience of being trapped, but lived that life and talks to you for a little bit. I think you just get a sense of whom they are and you listen to the information, and then spin it into your own jazz.
As a veteran actor who has been successfully working in the industry for several decades, do you feel at this point in your career that you need to do a lot of research for a role, or can you just read the script, understand it and know how to play any character?
Fahey: I think it’s different for every role and every story Jami, but some are delivered so well on paper. When it’s so well written like that, then you speak with the director and you can get a good sense of their vision. Then with your other actors you develop it along the way. But some were easier than others because it’s right there on paper, and also the interpretation of the director, but it’s different all the time Jami. It’s good to have the research certainly if you have the time. Other times it’s good to stay away from too much research and roll with it if you’re in the right environment.
Do you feel like Beneath was “delivered well on paper” and what was director Ben Ketai’s vision for the project?
Fahey: It was definitely on paper and then the joy was that I never looked at it as though it was a horror film. It was a psychological drama to me and that Ben laid the other stuff in. But it’s hard to pinpoint that Jami, sometimes it just all roles together. You read it and then you step in there. I don’t know if you are an actor or have been, but when you step into the wardrobe and in front of a set like that you feel as though you’re in a cave. So the environment you’re in gives a lot of that to you.
When you’re reading scripts and looking for projects to work on, what are you looking for? Is it all about the story and the character, or does the director, the cast, and where it will film play a part in your ultimate decision?
Fahey: I’m just moving through life. My life won’t be answered through films. It’ll be part of my life, but I don’t look for the answers in life through the films or plays that I do. I look for the adventure and the enjoyment of being part of the story. I just take them as they come. Grab ahold of some of them and move past some of the others, but its storytelling and some of them have an effect on people’s lives. All of them have an effect on me based on the people I’m working with, more so than the story that I’m involved in. There are times when the story changes your life a bit. But I would say sometimes it has more of an effect on the audience than it does on the individuals inside the story. That’s what I think. I can’t speak for anyone else. I just try to move and groove and grow along the way, and hopefully have some fun and run a little more.
Can I tell you which one of your films has had a lasting effect on my life?
Fahey: The Lawnmower Man!
No, but I do love that movie. In fact, I’ve told this before to your director Lawrence Kasdan, as well as your fellow cast member Kevin Kline.
Fahey: Oh, Silverado!
Yes. I think Silverado is one of the five best Westerns ever made.
Fahey: Oh my God. Thank you brother, thank you. I’m down here in Mexico working on another Western right now.
What movie are you working on?
Fahey: Texas Rising. It’s an eight-hour mini-series that Roland Joffe (There Be Dragons) is directing with Bill Paxton, and Ray Liotta. It’s set in the 1830’s. It’s great. I say that because we were just talking about Silverado the other day.
Was Silverado your first movie?
Fahey: Yeah, it was my first real movie after I did theater in New York. I had done some small independent student films, but that was the first big film I made.
Finally, as you look back on your impressive career, is there any project in particular that you are especially proud of?
Fahey: I’m proud of all of them. I have to say that and I’m not dodging the answer. Sometimes they’re really wonderful films, and sometimes they’re as Robert Mitchum would say “Every once and a while we do a carpet commercial.” The good, bad or indifferent of what the project is, I’ve always walked out of each one of those projects having learned something. I’ve worked with so many wonderful people. If I come off a film and the movie itself didn’t work as a story, or the audience didn’t grab a hold of it, even possibly rejected it in a quite strong way, if I walked out of there having had a good work experience with people on the project than that’s the gift I can get out of it and hopefully the audience sometimes can get a good film. It’s always a work in progress for me.
Beneath is currently available on VOD and opens in theaters on August 1st.
Texas Rising is currently in production.